Mr. President by Ray Raphael
How and Why the Founders Created a Chief Executive

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Meticulously detailed and thoroughly researched--Raphael cites the papers of many icons of the nation's birth, such as Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin--this is a valuable read for Democrats and Republicans, as well as historians and those interested in contemporary American politics.
-Publishers Weekly

Synopsis

The little-known story of the dramatic political maneuverings and personalities behind the creation of the office of the president, with ramifications that continue to this day.
 
On June 1, 1787, when the Federal Convention first talked of establishing a new executive branch, James Wilson moved that “the Executive consist of a single person.” To us this might sound obvious, but not so at the time. Americans had just won their independence from an autocratic monarch, and they feared that a single leader might commandeer power or oppress citizens. Should the framers even flirt with one-man rule? For the first and only time that summer, there was silence. Not one of the loquacious delegates dared speak up.
 
Eventually Benjamin Franklin rose, then others. James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and George Mason joined the debate, and for three months their deliberations continued. By early September the framers had made up their minds. A chief executive, the “president,” would be appointed by Congress to serve for seven years. He could not be reelected, and his powers were tightly constrained. He could neither negotiate treaties nor appoint Supreme Court justices and ambassadors. The Senate would do all that.
 
Suddenly, less than two weeks before the convention adjourned, all this changed. How? And who made it happen? Enter Gouverneur Morris, the flamboyant, peg-legged hero of this saga, who pushed through his agenda with amazing political savvy and not a little bluster and deceit. For the first time, by focusing closely on the give-and-take of the convention’s dynamics, Ray Raphael reveals how politics and personalities cobbled together a lasting, but flawed, institution.
 
Charting the presidency as it evolved during the administrations of Washington, Adams, and Jefferson, Raphael shows how, given the Constitution’s broad outlines, the president’s powers could easily be augmented but rarely diminished. Today we see the result—an office that has become more sweeping, more powerful, and more inherently partisan than the framers ever intended. And the issues of 1787—whether the Electoral College, the president’s war powers, or the extent of executive authority—continue to stir our political debates.
 

About Ray Raphael

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Ray Raphael is a Senior Research Fellow with Humboldt State University in Northern California. His sixteen books include A People's History of the American Revolution; Founding Myths: Stories That Hide Our Patriotic Past; and Mr. President: How and Why the Founders Created a Chief Executive.
 
Published March 6, 2012 by Vintage. 338 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, Law & Philosophy, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Mr. President
All: 4 | Positive: 3 | Negative: 1

Kirkus

Excellent
Reviewed by Kirkus' Reviews on Feb 15 2012

Raphael’s exceptional history of the beginning years of the United States should be required reading, especially in an election year.

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Publishers Weekly

Excellent
Reviewed by Publishers' Weekly on Mar 05 2012

Meticulously detailed and thoroughly researched--Raphael cites the papers of many icons of the nation's birth, such as Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin--this is a valuable read for Democrats and Republicans, as well as historians and those interested in contemporary American politics.

Read Full Review of Mr. President : How and Why t... | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

NY Journal of Books

Below average
Reviewed by Robert Schaefer

After the 100 pages or so, the author dives into the details of the politicking at the Constitutional Convention and this reviewer’s eyes glaze over.

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What Would the Founders Think?

Good
Reviewed by Martin

It is a very illuminating book, packed with meticulous research, and chock full of insights. 

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adam bryson 9 Dec 2013

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